Sri Lanka president declares state of emergency as protests mount

NEW DELHI: Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday declared a state of emergency from midnight amid nationwide protests over a massive economic crisis that has crippled the island nation.
A spokesman for the president said he invoked the tough laws to “ensure public order” after trade unions staged a nationwide strike Friday demanding his resignation over a worsening economic crisis.
The declaration comes hours after student activists warned to lay a siege to Parliament.
Thousands of student activists from the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) had blocked the main access road to the parliamentary complex since Thursday and carried on protests for almost 24 hours.
Meanwhile, trade unions have launched a crippling island-wide strike to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government over their inability to tackle the economic meltdown which has caused unprecedented hardships to the public.
Sri Lanka’s government has been facing a wave of protests around the country with an increasingly furious public demanding its resignation.
All trade unions of health, postal, port and other government services have joined the strike. However, several pro-ruling party trade unions have declined to join.
Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.
Despite mounting pressure, President Rajapaksa and his elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have refused to quit.
On Thursday, they won a key election in Parliament when their candidate convincingly won the race for the post of Deputy Speaker.